More AutoFair Attractions

Although he doesn't recommend reading it while cruising down the highway, a high school art teacher has covered his Ford Model A with thousands of characters and scenes from a century of comics.

This rolling history of America's popular culture will be displayed during the Sept. 14-17 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Robert Luczun's hobby is restoring and showing Model As, but he saw that young people barely noticed the antique Fords at car shows. They were always drawn to the brightly colored muscle cars and street rods.

"I have two unrestored Model As," Luczun said. "Both have very low miles on them, which makes them very desirable for collectors. But when anyone under the age of 50 sees them, they just think: 'old cars, big deal.'"

Having already turned his 1996 Harley-Davidson Springer into a two-wheeled tribute to Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's artwork with various depictions of the famous Rat Fink character-including a three-dimensional sculpture on the front fender-Luczun decided to expand the idea to a larger vehicle.

He bought a 1928 Model AR Roadster pickup and restored it to its original condition. On Oct. 18, 2004, 108 years to the day after the first comic, The Yellow Kid, was published, Luczun began a 2,000-hour airbrush project. The artist made no attempt to catalog or categorize his figures, although there are distinct clusters throughout the car's body.

The front fenders, for example, are covered with black-and-white characters such as Felix the Cat, the Three Stooges and Howdy Doody. Hanna-Barbera's Flintstone family shares the left-side engine cover with Bullwinkle's crew, Archie Andrews and friends, and the lovable animals from Pooh's Corner. The passenger side of the Model A features a veritable army of Disney characters, including 101 Dalmatians-yes, all 101 of them!

Mischievous figures from the pages of Mad magazine appear unexpectedly, and pop culture icons such as Albert Einstein, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando are scattered throughout the expansive work. Superheroes are evenly represented, whether you are a D.C. nerd (Superman, Green Lantern, Flash) or a Marvel geek (Iron Man, Wolverine, Hulk).

The artist worked six-hour shifts on the Model A in the evenings after teaching at Passaic High School in New Jersey. When he missed a shift, he would make it up, even if it meant working 12 hours the next night. Luczun claims his patience and love of art developed at the same time.

"I spent time in a polio ward when I was about 5 or 6," Luczun said. "I was one of the lucky kids who got Dr. Saulk's experimental vaccine in time, but it meant I was bored a lot in the hospital.

"One day somebody gave me a drawing of Donald Duck sitting in a hospital bed. It made me and the other kids feel good to see it. Knowing that something beautiful and desirable could be created with just a piece of paper and a pencil made me fall in love with art."

A good airbrush artist easily commands $100 per hour of work, which means the paint job on Luczun's Model A would cost about $200,000 to replicate. Why, then, does he insist there be no barriers between his truck and the public when it is on display at the Food Lion AutoFair?

"Cartoons appeal to all of us, no matter what age," he said. "Our first instinct when we see figures like Snow White or the Jolly Green Giant is to touch them-see that they are real. Kids are going to want to touch the car when they see it, and that's okay. It's part of the magic."

Other attractions scheduled for the Food Lion AutoFair include a display of vintage wood-bodied wagons, the Ultimate Surfmobile from Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage," a 900-horsepower Shadrach Mustang and 40th Anniversary gatherings of two important American muscle cars that have recently been revived: the Dodge Charger and the Shelby GT-500 Mustang. Dozens of examples of vintage farm machinery, courtesy of the Stumptown Tractor Club, will fill the show lot next to the infield Pavilion, and there will be an automotive art gallery.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For more information, contact the speedway events department at 704-455-3205 or click here.